A Home Remodel, A Morning Run, and An Encounter With An Industrious Squirrel

Sorry, Dear Readers, that I haven’t posted in several weeks. 

Since January 2, I’ve been busy packing the contents of my home of nearly twenty years, in preparation of remodeling it. David and I live in a small home, and our contractor has impressed upon us that living in it during the remodel is not a viable option. 

We’ve moved into a rented, temporary home, for the next several months.

Scarf In The Tree, ink and watercolor by Julianna Paradis, 2023

Oddly, these circumstances remind me of a recent encounter I had with a squirrel.

One morning before last Christmas, I was running along the Willamette River. It was a very cold morning, as it was most of December.

Along the way, something unusual caught my eye. A long, woolen scarf, dangling from a branch, was being yanked up the trunk of a cedar tree. Taking a moment to study the situation, I saw a squirrel tugging on the scarf, pulling it up the tree, presumably to line its nest. 

I stopped running and approached the tree for a better look. The scarf appeared to be crocheted in large, loopy stitches of orange and white yarn. How it got into the tree in the first place I don’t know. Did someone put it there? Or, did the squirrel work it up into the tree from the ground?

The scarf’s loopy stitches had become tangled around the tree’s bough and despite the squirrel’s efforts, would not budge. I sympathized with the tiny beast’s predicament. It was cold; using a discarded, crocheted scarf to line its nest was an idea I could support.

I am not a tall person, but I could reach the dangling edge of the scarf that hung below the bough. I reached towards it. The squirrel noticed, and scurried up the tree trunk to safety, wary of my intention.

I freed the scarf from the bough, walked back to my original vantage point, and waited.

In a few minutes, the squirrel returned to the scarf. Watching, it occurred to me that I should have wrapped the long end into a ball somehow; perhaps it would make the squirrel’s work a bit easier.

Unexpectedly, the squirrel did that very thing: It positioned itself on the branch at the point the scarf hung over, and using its teeth and paws, gathered the scarf upwards into a ball-like shape. Then it climbed back up the branch, pulling the scarf upwards again.

I was so surprised to discover the squirrel and I shared problem-solving abilities! Our differences were size, and the ability to use tools, but the thought process was the same.

In this manner, the squirrel hoisted the scarf a couple of more feet up the tree, until the scarf caught again, this time on a snag on the branch.

At this point, I was fully engaged in the squirrel’s plight. Again, I approached the tree, and the squirrel scurried back up its trunk, hiding in the greenery. Unfortunately, I could no longer reach the scarf. I found a small, broken branch on the ground, and used it to loosen the scarf once more, before retreating back to my position.

The squirrel crept back down, continuing its work. Regrettably, I had an appointment to attend, and needed to finish my run. I could not stay to find out how the squirrel fared.

The next morning I ran the same route, remembering to check the tree. The scarf was now markedly higher up in another bough. The squirrel had wrest it a surprising distance. I realized then it was quite possible the squirrel had acquired the discarded scarf from the ground; prior I’d assumed a human had hung it in the tree.

There was no sign of the squirrel, however.

The third morning, I stopped to observe the squirrel’s work again. The scarf had been moved two to three feet higher into the tree. Once again, the squirrel was not observable from where I stood.

Ever since, the scarf has remained in the same spot. The plucky squirrel has abandoned using it for its nest.

The scarf remains tangled in the tree. I think about the squirrel’s and my shared desire to improve our homes; our willingness to work toward accomplishing our goals. I think about all of the packing I’ve done, the choices of materials I’ve made, and the work ahead. I hope that, unlike my furry friend, I will be able to accomplish my large-scale home remodeling project.

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